By Raymond E. Harris
One of the clearest lessons taught in the New Testament is that of individual responsibility to know and obey God’s word. Paul reminded the Corinthians that some of them did not have the knowledge of God. And, he said, “I speak this to your shame” (1 Cor. 15:34).
Recently I read that the Bible is the best selling unread book in the world. What a shame! Most everyone wants to own a Bible, but it seems few really read and study God’s word.
Often, when a question comes up that has to do with the Bible, folks are too lazy to study, so they just ask their preacher for the answer. That may, or may not be a good idea. It is proper and right that people should listen to preachers and give them a respectful hearing. However, no one’s responsibility ends there. No one can please God by blindly following a preacher.
Remember that preachers are human. Today preachers are all uninspired. All any of them really knows of truth is what they have learned from the Scriptures.
Also, we must remember that preachers differ greatly in their interpretation of the Bible. Hence, there are over 300 major religious groups in America. All the preachers may be wrong on a particular passage. But, with all the division, it is obvious they cannot all be tight.
On judgment day, it will do no good to say, “We did as the preacher said.” The creed book, the preacher or even the college theology professor will not be our judge. Rather Jesus said, “The Word that I have spoken, the same shall judge him in the last day” (John 12:48). And in Matthew 7:24-27,, the Lord explained that those that heard and did His word would be numbered among the wise. Truly, Jesus is the author of eternal salvation unto “all them that obey him” (Heb. 5:9).
If a preacher is what he ought to be, he will be happy to have people ask him questions which “pertain unto fife and godliness.” Such a preacher will do his best to give them a “thus saith the Lord” relative to their question. Anyone who professes to be a preacher and who publicly proclaims the Scriptures is obliged to do his best to assist those who seek his help to understand the word.
We would like to suggest a few questions for your preacher. The proper answer to these questions are vital to the eternal welfare of your soul!
1. How many churches did the Lord promise to build? Consider the following Scriptures (1) Matthew 16:18 ” . .. I will build my church: and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.”‘ (2) Acts 2:47: “. . The Lord added to the church daily such as should be saved.” (3) Ephesians 5:23: “. . . Christ is the head of the church: and he is the savior of the body.” (4) 1 Corinthians 12:12, “For by one spirit are we all baptized into one body.” (5) Ephesians 4:4: “There is one body. . .”
The March 1980 issue of Good Housekeeping Magazine listed 1,200 religious groups in America! Obviously about all of them are man-made. If the Lord started and intends to save more than one church, ask your preacher where in the New Testament you can read about it. I can read where Christ said He would build His church (Matt. 16:18). Where is the church you attend mentioned in the Scriptures?
2. Where can you find the name of your church in the Bible? Look at these verses: (1) 1 Corinthians 1:2: “unto the church of God which is at Corinth, to them that are sanctified in Christ Jesus.” (2) Acts 20:28: ” … feed the church of God, which he hath purchased with his own blood.” (3) Romans 16:16: “The churches of Christ salute you. ‘I If the name of the church where your preacher preaches is in the Bible, he will surely know where to find it. If it is not in God’s word you need to know! You wouldn’t want to be a part of a man-made church not even mentioned in the Holy Scriptures! Ask your preacher to show you the verse.
3. Where does the Bible say sinners are saved by faith only? (1) In James 2:24, we read: “Ye see then how that by works a man is justified, and not by faith only” (emph. mine, R.E.H.) (2) In Matthew 7:21, Jesus said, “Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven.” (3) In John 14:15, Christ said, “If ye love me, keep my commandments.” (4) Hebrews 5:9: “He (Jesus) became the author of eternal salvation unto all them that obey him.”
In fact, a careful search of the Scriptures reveals that no one thing saves. Consider the following:
1 . God saves (1 Tim. 4:10).
2. Grace saves (Eph. 2:8).
3. Jesus saves (Matt. 1:21).
4. Blood of Jesus saves (Rom. 5:9):
5. The Gospel saves (Rom. 1:16).
6. God’s word saves (Acts 11:14).
7. Faith saves (Rom. 5:1).
8. Works save (James 2:14-26).
9. Repentance saves (Lk. 13:5; Acts 3:19).
10. Confession saves (Rom. 10:9-10; Matt. 10:32).
11. Baptism saves (Mk. 16:16; 1 Pet. 3:21).
12. We save ourselves (Acts 2:40; 1 Tim. 4:16).
13. Hope saves (Rom. 8:24).
14. Continued faithfulness saves (Rev. 2:10).
15. Preaching saves (1 Cor. 1:21).
If your preacher teaches that one is saved the moment he believes and accepts Christ as his Savior, ask him to explain the verses above. If your preacher teaches that one is saved by just humbly praying for God to forgive your sins, ask him to harmonize that with all the foregoing.
4. Where does the Bible make a Clergy-Laity distinction? In this day of specialists, far too many professed religious people seem to be saying: “I’m too busy for Bible study; I’ll leave the theology to the Theologians.”
At the same time we have a number of nationally known “media preachers” who are promoted as all wise and all knowing. They seem to revel in their popularity, notoriety and prestige. And, most of them flaunt some kind of title in front of their name, such as “Reverend,” “Father,” “Doctor,” etc.
It might be interesting to ask your preacher for a verse of Scripture authorizing such. Is it right to exalt one Christian above another? Where in the Bible does it speak of the clergy and the laity? If anyone knows where that verse is please, please let me hear from you!
I know the Apostles were called apostles. Evangelists were called evangelists. Bishops (elders) were called bishops. And, deacons were called deacons. But, what kind of a title did they wear? These were men with special works or services to perform; but, even they were not exalted as some men are today.
In Acts 10:25-26, when Cornelius met the apostle Peter, he “fell down at his feet, and worshiped him”; Peter took him up saying, “Stand up; I myself also am a man.” Then in Acts 14, when Paul and Barnabas preached and worked miracles in the city of Lystra, the people tried to worship them. Again, these men of God cried out, “We also are men of like passions with you.” They told the people they should not reverence them, but rather, “Turn from these vanities unto the living God.”
And in regard to titles we must always remember that Jesus said, “Be not ye called Rabbi: for one is your master even Christ: and all ye are brethren. And call no man your father upon the earth; for one is your father, which is in heaven. Neither be ye called masters: for one is your master, even Christ. But he that is greatest among you shall be your servant. And whosoever shall exalt himself shall be abased: and he that shall humble himself shall be exalted” (Matt. 23:8-12).
Guardian of Truth XXX: 20, pp. 622-623
October 16, 1986